Huntington Town Board rejects bamboo regulations

Bamboo, a fast-growing plant which originated in China, Bamboo, a fast-growing plant which originated in China, is favored by some homeowners as a privacy screen. Photo Credit: Missouri Botanical Garden

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The Huntington Town Board, for a second time, has rejected regulations on bamboo, with some board members saying the fines were too punitive and the laws would make it more difficult to sell houses with the invasive plant.

The board also unanimously voted Tuesday to accept a new contract with its unionized workers.

The bamboo measure's rejection "is disheartening to say the least," said councilwoman Susan Berland, who sponsored it. "None of the councilmen offered me any suggestions nor did they give me any valid reasons . . . for voting against it."

Supervisor Frank Petrone also voted in favor.

Dozens of residents have expressed support for the regulation since March, describing the damage bamboo has caused and voicing concerns about potential injuries.

The proposal banned the planting of "running bamboo," the kind that travels from one property to another, Berland said. Residents still are allowed to plant "clumping" bamboo, which doesn't spread, she said.

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She said residents already with running bamboo on their property would have been required to take measures to ensure it doesn't spread. Fines ranged from $250 to $2,500.

"I think the fine system is too punitive," councilman Mark Cuthbertson said after the meeting.

Councilman Mark Mayoka said he was concerned about the effect the measure would have on the sale of residential properties.

Councilman Eugene Cook was unavailable for comment.

Berland said "bamboo isn't going away and neither am I."

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In other business, the board unanimously approved a five-year pact with the town's white-collar workers, which its union approved this month.

The agreement includes 2.75 percent hikes for the three years after the pay freeze and eligible employees will get a step increase at contract's end.

Also, all members will pay 10 percent into their health care costs starting in 2013. Previously, only members hired after April 7, 2007, were required to pay into health care costs.

Members also will forgo 10 days of pay in 2013, to be paid out upon retirement.

The union's nearly 200 workers will no longer be paid for up to three unused personal days for 2013, and a health care buyout option will be reduced by half.

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